A lot of my friends and family might refer to me as “the lucky one.”
But if they do, they definitely do it behind my back.
Why withhold such an affirmation, you may ask?
Simply because, they know by now, that I absolutely disagree.
In fact, I’ll fight them on it. Like mad. Tooth and nail. Knock-down, drag-out.
Because, friends, I’m simply not a believer in luck.
::pause as a hush falls over the crowd::
I just don’t buy it.
I simply don’t believe that there is a “purposeless, unpredictable, and uncontrollable force that shapes events favorably or unfavorably” for us. (Thank you, Webster.) I do believe in God. I do believe in fate and free will. I do believe that both good and bad things happen to both good and bad people. And I do believe that someone is slowly but surely stealing socks from my laundry.
But I just don’t believe in “luck.”
Now, you may be baffled by this, especially if you’ve read any of my previous posts. I could easily be the next poster child for “luck.” My life is crazy, that way.
I mean, seriously. Somehow, I got a job with a famous author by writing one email. Somehow, my college article made it on the wall of an Olympic Gold Medalist’s home. Somehow, I met the woman who brought this blog into being during a random, hungover encounter at a Vietnamese airport.
Just recently, somehow, I found a new web designer while in line for Confession (the events of which are fodder for an entirely separate post, coming soon.).
There is no denying that crazy shit happens to me all the time.
But I just don’t think that this "somehow" is “luck.”
And I’ll prove it to you.
With science and a story.
Well, first the story. Then, the science. I know I need to ease you in.
So let’s start with the rather serendipitous story of how I got my first, professional speaking engagement. Here goes.
It was crawfish season, and my parents had invited me to a family friend’s house for a good, old-fashioned crawfish boil. While most 20-somethings would balk at the idea of spending an afternoon with four couples in their 50’s, I was pumped. In college, I had mastered the mantra “if it’s free, it’s for me,” and this opportunity presented itself with more swag than I could shake a stick at.
And, I got the chance to see my family and some of the best people I know.
So I was game.
About 30 minutes and one beer into this shindig, we were surprised by some new faces. In walked a woman escorting her two elderly parents—one with a walker and the other in a wheel chair—all in amazing spirits.
Come to find out, the couple lived across the street and had just celebrated their 70th (no, that is not a typo) wedding anniversary. (Let that sink in for a minute… 70 years.) They were high school sweethearts from Odessa, Texas, and had moved to Dallas in their later years to be closer to their youngest and only daughter, Kathryn.
Now, Kathryn, unbeknownst to me, knew not one single person at that party. She was simply there to escort her parents and have a good time. I was there under the same premise except that my parents don’t require escorting unless tequila is involved.
But that is neither here nor there.
We settled in with our new guests in the backyard of the house. After another 30 minutes of standing, I decided to take a seat in one of the lawn chairs, seeing as how I was the youngest and obviously the most in need of a break. So down I went into this chair…
And down I went to the ground.
That’s right. That damn chair ripped the second I sat down, and my happy ass landed on the ground faster than you can say, “fat kid.”
I. Was. Mortified.
But, I saved my beer.
Horray, for small victories!
Once I had recovered and the laughter from the group (yes, the whole group, cute old couple included) had subsided, I decided to use this as an excuse to be social. It was either that or be the “awkward girl who broke the chair” all afternoon.
So, I went over to Kathryn and made some joke about breaking the ice. She laughed and admitted she was happy it was me and not her.
Thus, a friendship was born.
We spent the next hour or so getting to know each other. I told her my life story (shocking, right?) and my dream to speak and write for a living. I told her about my background in psychology and my passion for people. We had very similar personalities, and I just had a feeling that something cool would come out of the conversation.
Well, what do you know, I was right.
Turns out, Kathryn was the director of counselling for an entire school district. Boom, psychology. She was also a seasoned public speaker who had delivered workshops and seminars for major organizations. Boom, professional. And, she worked with groups of young adults navigating major life transitions. Boom, audience. Boom, subject matter. Boom, best conversation. Ever.
I had a hunch that there might be a little more to this meeting of ours, so I pressed her on it. Would she be willing to speak to me some more? Did she know of anyone I could talk to in the industry? Or maybe, was there an opportunity for us to work together?
Well, wouldn’t you know, there was.
She had an upcoming event sponsoring kids through a day-long workshop on leadership. After our fabulous conversation, she had an idea. She wanted to know if I’d be willing to write some curriculum from scratch, build a three hour presentation, and give a workshop for her kids.
Oh, and would I be willing to get paid for it?
Umm… duh! Where do I sign?!
One handshake later, I was hired for my first ever professional speaking engagement.
All because one day I decided to go to a crawfish boil with the ‘rents.
Now, the ordinary person might look at this and say, “Wow, you’re just so… lucky.”
But nay, don’t be tempted. You’re more discerning than the ordinary person. And I have a feeling you’ve already seen some interesting details woven into this story that go beyond our traditional definition of “luck.” So let’s explore them… with science!
Now, in the science and study of luck, one name reigns supreme: Richard Wiseman.
Wiseman is the Malcolm Gladwell of luck. After years of psychological studies and informational interviews, he realized that luck was simply a formula for success. “Lucky” people have a set of principles that actually brings fortune into their lives. Unlucky people have another set of practices that not only deters happy coincidences but renders them incapable of seeing opportunities when they actually do appear.
He wrote a fantastic book called, The Luck Factor, in which he breaks down the four tendencies common among “lucky” people-- the four secrets to getting lucky. I’ve listed them below for all you lazy folks out there, but you should definitely check out the book if you get the chance.
Let’s take these four principles—Maximize, Expect, Listen, and Turn—try to apply them to the story above. Maybe we can learn to M.E.L.T. into luck, afterall. Let’s just see about that.
Lucky people maximize chance opportunities.
Wiseman believes that lucky people “create, notice, and act” upon things that happen in life. That is true many times over in this story. I accepted the invitation to the party. I was social at the party. I took the initiative to begin a conversation with Kathryn. I asked her questions, and I was vulnerable with my own answers. I’m not saying that I created the situation altogether, but I did actively engage in it—seemingly by chance, but definitely by choice.
You too can turn accident into intention.
Lucky people expect good fortune.
Wiseman’s studies capitalize on the fact that lucky people tend to believe in their own luck. It’s a circular reasoning that results in a circular outcome—think you’re lucky, have good things happen, reinforce the belief that you’re lucky, and the cycle goes on. Unlucky people engage in the same type of self-fulfilling prophecy behavior, except in the reverse. This core belief—that good things would happen—shaped the way I interacted with everyone at the party, but especially with Kathryn. Well into our conversation, I just began to expect us to have things in common and potentially work together in the future.
You too can create a mindset for success.
Lucky people listen to lucky hunches.
Wiseman’s interviews have shown that lucky people rely heavily on their intuition and use their gut to make decisions. Now, I’m no soothsayer, but I vividly remember thinking that my meeting with Kathryn was more than just a casual encounter. In the story above you’ll see that many times I used phrases like “just knew” or “had a feeling.” That’s not an accident. Those hunches led me to ask specific questions that led to Kathryn hiring me on the spot.
You too can let your tummy do the talking.
Lucky people turn bad luck into good luck.
Wiseman also saw that while lucky people did in fact encounter bad luck, they interpreted it differently. They learned to not only cope with but also capitalize on ill will. There is no greater example of this (in my mind, anyway) than me busting through a chair at a party. It combined all of my least favorite things—breaking stuff, falling down, and spilling things—in one fell swoop. Yet, I tried to imagine how it could be worse (umm, a room full of hot guys!), to not dwell on it (get right back up!), and to take control going forward (go make a joke about it!). In fact, without that one instance of bad luck (if you want to call it that), I might never have engaged with Kathryn at all.
You can choose how you react to “luck”, both good and bad.
Now, understand what I’m saying here.
I do not think that I am the sole creator of my own fortunate reality.
But I do think I had a small, but meaningful, hand in it.
Am I thankful for the set of circumstances that led me to that party, yes. Do I believe that God was at work in some way, absolutely. But do I believe that the flying spaghetti monster of “purposeless, unpredictable, and uncontrollable” luck had anything to do with this… definitely not.
Try this in your own life, and let me know if it works! I mean, what sounds better and easier than MELTing into good luck…
Just know that you can harness these four principles to help create the “luck” you want in your life.
You can use chance opportunities, gut feelings, positive expectations, and reframing techniques to think and behave like a “lucky” person.
If you just open your eyes and your heart to opportunity and live in the world of possibility, you can M.E.L.T. your way into anything.
When was your last “lucky” moment, and how did you actively participate in it? Who helped you see how your preparedness met opportunity in that moment?
Did this story resonate with you? Or did it make you think of a story of your own? Share your story or your reaction in the comments below.
I believe that stories unite us. These stories can be traced back to one person, conversation, or observation that provided a turning point in our lives. I’d love to hear if you believe this, too.
If you do believe this, then share it with your friends! Because sharing stories an instinctual, powerful way to touch the hearts of others and change the world around us.
Tagged as act, affirmation, ask for what you want, awkward porcupine, chance, crazy, create, expect, expectations, freebies, getting lucky, gladwell, God, gut feelings, listen, lucky, maximize, melt into it, mindset for success, most embarrassing moment ever, notice, possibility, redefine, story, storytelling, success, the flying spaghetti monster, the luck factor, the power of intention, turn, wiseman